Scott Roth’s pain was the University of Washington’s – and his – gain.
The senior six-time All-American pole vault star benefitted from an unintentional blessing after a hamstring injury that he initially thought would scuttle his indoor season turned out to be the break he needed to help him post an outstanding year both indoor and outdoor.
Roth is hot. Two weeks ago, at the Pepsi Invitational, he won the event with a winning vault of 18-0 1/2. Then last weekend, at the Mt. SAC relays, he vaulted into UW history with a standout performance.
Roth entered the competition at 17-9 1/2 and cleared it in one try. The same result at 18-5 1/4, where he established a new outdoor PR. Ditto at 18-9 1/4, and with that broke American record-holder Brad Walker’s former school record of 18-6 1/2 set in 2003.
But why stop there?
The Granite, Bay, Ca., native went for 19-0 3/4 – which would have established a Pac-10 record – but came up just short. Nonetheless, his 18-9 1/4 vault is the best effort by an American this year indoors or outdoors, and is the second-best clearance in the world outdoors this season.
“It was just perfect there,” Roth said. “A 15 m.p.h. wind, a good tail wind, great weather. My mindset right now is this will be my last time jumping for the UW. It’s an opportunity to prove myself.
“I’ve been training really hard and also trying to enjoy my last year. I am definitely going to give it my full effort.”
With that in mind, Roth trained relentlessly, never really giving his body any time off. Until his body told him it had had enough. On an approach, Roth severely injured his right hamstring – an injury he’d never had before. What’s worse, it came a month before the indoor championships.
“Last year, I expected to win nationals,” Roth said, who did win the title. “This year if you asked me, I would have said I am not going. I thought I was done for a while. I was really discouraged.
“It was pretty painful. I got lots of treatment for it and rehabbed about an hour a day. I was surprised because it healed quickly.”
It also helped that Roth followed the regimen to the letter. It is the type of compliance one would expect from someone who is majoring in biology. Once he understood what it would take to get him back to competition, he was all in.
“I really was thinking about physiology of the muscles,” Roth said. “I ask questions. Knowing the science behind it helped me. I know it made me more dedicated to treatment. That, and I was thinking, ‘I might get to go to nationals.’ I had a month to heal the best I could.”
Evidently his hamstring healed just fine.
At the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, Roth won his second national title when he cleared 18-0 1/2. Not only did that earn him the title, it earned him the ‘A’ Standard necessary to compete at the 2011 IAAF World Championships starting in August in Daegu, Korea should he earn a spot on Team USA.
“I felt really good [at nationals], so [the injury] worked out for me,” Roth said. “Maybe if I had not gotten injured, I might not have won. [If healthy] I probably would have been training hard and jumped at my last meets before the nationals. I am upset I lost two chances to break indoor school records then, but it all worked out.”
As solitary a sport as the pole vault is, it stands to reason Roth’s motivation comes mostly from within. For him the acclaim and records pale in comparison to the battles waged within.
“I challenge myself,” Roth said. “[Meet records] matter, but not as much as I think it does to others,” Roth said. I mean, I think about it, but I don’t dwell on it.
“Achieving my PRs (personal records) always mean more to me than winning the meet. That has worked for me. It has been exciting, and I am ready for the rest of the season.”